Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, together with Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, hosted on Thursday the 14 women who will light the 12 beacons – one for each of the tribes of Israel – during Monday`s evening`s official Independence Day ceremony at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem.
The torch-lighters met with Speaker Edelstein in his office and received the Knesset Medal. Later, they took the traditional group photo with their hosts.
Speaker Edelstein said this year`s theme of the Independence Day Celebrations, ”Time for Women – Achievements and Challenges,” is a ”wonderful theme for Independence Day,” adding that ”the stories of the women who are lighting the beacons this year are touching and inspiring. ”
This year`s torch-lighters are:
Carmela Menashe, a veteran military affairs reporter for Israel Radio. Nicknamed the ”mother of the soldiers,” Menashe is considered to be an authority in a field that had previously been dominated by men.
Pascale Bercovitch, a French-born Paralympic athlete, journalist and documentary filmmaker. After making aliyah, Bercovitch volunteered to serve in the IDF. As a member of Israel`s national rowing team, she won a silver medal in the 2008 World Cup competitions in Germany. She also came in fourth at the 2012 world climbing championship, sixth in hand-cycling at the 2012 London Paralympics and eighth in rowing at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
Shahar Peer, 27, is Israel`s highest-ranking tennis player ever — No. 11 in 2011.
Belaynesh Zevadia, an Ethiopian-born immigrant, is Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia. She made aliyah at age 17 and after obtaining a BA degree in international relations and an MA in African studies, she joined the Foreign Ministry. Zevadia is a role model to Ethiopian women who seek meaningful positions and contribute to the resilience of Israeli society.
Miriam Peretz, a Moroccan-born educator and mother of two Israeli army officers who fell in the line of duty. She is a symbol of heroism and the triumph of the Jewish and Israeli spirit. Despite the tragedy that had befallen her, Peretz travels all across the country to lift the spirit of bereaved families and injured soldiers – all out of love for the land and the State of Israel.
Maxine Fassberg, CEO of Intel Israel, the country’s largest high-tech company. She has contributed greatly to Israel`s economy for many years and is an inspiration to women who see high-ranking positions in high finance and high-tech. Under Fassberg`s leadership, Intel has grown into a company that employs some 10,000 men and women from all segments of society, including ultra-Orthodox and Arabs.
Hindia Suleiman, founder of a groundbreaking women`s entrepreneurial venture in the Israeli-Arab village of Bu`eine-Nujeidat. Suleiman became a widow at age 28, and raised her children on her own. Her three sons served in the army. She currently runs an art center where women earn a living by selling their artwork while preserving their artistic tradition. Thus, she contributes greatly to the empowerment of women in her home village.
Tali Peretz-Cohen, director of a center to help victims of sexual assault in the Galilee and Golan. As part of her efforts, Peretz-Cohen produces educational material aimed at raising public awareness to the issue of sexual assault.
Rabbi Adina Bar Shalom, an educator (and daughter of late Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef) who founded the Haredi College in Jerusalem, which is designed to meet the educational and religious needs of haredi men and women looking to acquire academic qualifications. She founded the college despite opposition from the haredi leadership and academic circles. Bar Shalom is among those who are leading social change in the ultra-Orthodox sector and seek to bring the various segments of society closer together.
Miriam Zohar, a theater actress and 1986 Israel Prize winner who has been enriching the Israeli cultural world for 65 years. During her career, Zohar has portrayed strong women who struggle to pave their own way in the world. Born in Czernowitz, Romania, Zohar was in a concentration camp in Ukraine during World War II. In 1948 she was among the ”illegal” immigrants sent to Palestine on the Pan York, all of whose passengers were sent to Cyprus. She finally arrived in Israel in 1949, where she built an illustrious career. She is a symbol of the revival of the Jewish nation.
Dr. Kira Radinsky, a researcher at the Technion whose work on data mining makes it possible to predict events and patterns. Radinsky, 27, who appeared on MIT’s prestigious list of top 35 inventors under the age of 35, has written complex computer algorithms which collect immense volumes of electronic data – most notably several decades of New York Times archives but also anything from Twitter feeds to Wikipedia entries – and process them to extract little-known cause and effect patterns that can be used to predict future events.
Orna Barbivai, the first woman to achieve the rank of major general, heads the Israel Defense Forces personnel directorate. She will light the torch as a representative of the IDF. Her achievements are an inspiration to women who seek high-ranking posts in the army and show that the path to these positions is open to women.
Geula Cohen, a bold fighter in pre-state underground paramilitary organizations Irgun and Lehi, Israel Prize winner, former Likud MK and party founder. She was among the initiators of Basic Law: Jerusalem and has dedicated her public life to the Greater Israel concept and to bringing Jews to Israel.
Gal Yoseph, 17, chairwoman of the National Students Council. Yosef, who will light a torch with Geula Cohen, has been socially active since an early age and has influenced other teenage girls to do volunteer work. She is an 11th grader at Ahad HaAm High School in Petah Tikva.